A passenger had to take over the controls in the cockpit after the pilot fell ill and passed out against the control and sent the small aircraft nosediving. The passenger, who had no flying experience, safely landed the plane in Florida under the guidance and instructions of an air traffic controller,
Around noon on Tuesday, passenger Darren Harrison landed a plane at Palm Beach International Airport after he jumped into action when the pilot, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), alerted his two passengers that he was not feeling well. The pilot of the Cessna 208 was en route to Florida following his departure from the Bahamas when he suddenly passed out, and Mr Harrison, acting quickly, told the air traffic control that they were now facing a “serious situation”.
The conversation between the air traffic controller, who also teaches new pilots and Mr Harrison was caught in an audio recording from the flight. In the conversation. Harrison tells the air traffic control that his “pilot has gone incoherent” and he has “no idea how to fly the aeroplane”.
In response to his alert, the air traffic controller inquired about his position, but Mr Harrison said he did not know, but the coast of Florida was visible. He was instructed to “Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either northbound or southbound” while the air traffic control attempted to locate the plane.
Listen to the convo below.
The air traffic controller at Palm Beach International Airport, Robert Morgan was reportedly on a break when he was alerted of the situation by his colleagues. Mr Morgan told WPBF-TV that he had to keep Mr Harrison calm, “point him to the runway and tell him how to reduce the power so he could descend to land”.
Mr Morgan, who has over 20 years of experience in air traffic control, also recounted the experience to FFA, to be “like a movie”.
Mr Morgan praised the passengers for landing the aircraft, which the passengers were initially planning to land at Boca Raton in Florida, but ended up landing at Palm Beach International Airport under Mr Morgan’s advice because it had a longer runway. Following the landing, Mr Morgan and Mr Harrison met on the tarmac for a hug.
Meanwhile, the pilot is hospitalized without an update on his condition, and The FFA is currently investigating the situation.